FIFA chief Gianni Infantino on Tuesday delivered a hammer blow to Peru captain Paolo Guerrero's hopes of overturning a doping ban to play at the World Cup by underlining the supremacy of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Guerrero's attempt to clear his name following a ban for testing positive for traces of cocaine backfired in spectacular fashion: it led the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to increase an initial six-month suspension to 14 months last week.
Now ruled out of the World Cup and suspended by his Brazilian club Flamengo, Guerrero is not scheduled to return to competition until January 2019.
Guerrero's case has prompted an outpouring of support from his native Peru, where even the president Martin Vizcarra led calls for clemency.
But after a heartfelt appeal to FIFA, the player and his representatives may now be forced into a last-ditch appeal to a Swiss federal tribunal -- the only body qualified to amend or cancel the suspension.
After the player and Peruvian football federation (FPF) chief, Edwin Oviedo, met FIFA President Gianni Infantino in Zurich on Tuesday, a statement from world football's ruling body said it was virtually powerless to change final decisions by CAS.
"Gianni Infantino expressed his deep understanding of Guerrero?s disappointment in not being able to join the Peruvian squad at the 2018 FIFA World Cup," said a short FIFA statement.
"However, the FIFA President also stressed the fact that the sanction had been imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, after an appeal lodged against a decision of an independent FIFA judicial body."
Guerrero's only hope may now lie with appealing to a Swiss Federal Tribunal.
Guerrero was initially banned for one year after traces of the drug, which is on the banned list of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), were found in a sample following a World Cup qualifier against Argentina on October 5 last year.
FIFA reduced the ban to six months on appeal last December. That ban ended on May 3, making Guerrero eligible to play at the June 14-July 15 World Cup in Russia.
But the emblematic Peru captain wanted the ban annulled and arrived at a CAS hearing two weeks ago flanked by lawyers.
WADA retaliated, appealing to CAS to uphold their original sanction, and sport's top arbitration court responded by increasing Guerrero's ban.
CAS said on May 14: "The CAS decided to increase Mr Guerrero?s suspension from six to 14 months, starting today (Monday), with the period of provisional suspension of six months already served by Mr Guerrero being credited against the total period of ineligibility to be served."
Peru face France, Australia and Denmark in Group C at the World Cup.
© 2018 AFP